Dairy farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are working hard to recover from the effects of extensive flooding. Storms from last week have left large swaths of Tulare County under water. Evacuation orders have been issued in a number of communities, including Alpaugh, Allensworth, Porterville, and Cutler. Anja Raudabaugh, CEO of Western United Dairies, stated that evacuating livestock from flooded areas has been a difficult task.
“Not everyone in California is aware of the situational crisis unfolding in Tulare, which is now spreading into Kings County,” Raudabaugh said. “Our members have been submerged. We’ve had to relocate nearly 100,000 cows in emergency evacuation situations since last Wednesday.”
According to Raudabaugh, moving the cows has been a “herculean” task. Members of the industry have largely banded together to provide assistance in transporting animals to other locations. Dairy farmers who have not been impacted by flooding are assisting by housing animals wherever possible. According to Raudabaugh, some older dairies that have closed are now being used as “literal lifeboats” for evacuated cows. The next step is to get the cows back on a milking schedule. “We’re working with CDFA and the state veterinarian to get those milking parlours up and running as soon as possible after inspections.” “It’s not an easy task, and it’s not ideal,” Raudabaugh explained.
Farmers who produce milk
Dairy farmers who are forced to relocate their cows may face additional problems later in the season. The abundance of floodwaters has largely destroyed the area’s feed crops.
“We’ve probably lost the entire year’s wheat crop in the south valley, which is terrible because we were coming off some pretty short feed years due to the drought.” Then there was the loss of a lot of bagged silage and replacement hay,” Raudabaugh explained. “So, finding enough feed while these cows are relocated has been a huge challenge.”